geared vs ungeared

This might be a silly question but here goes.
A guni 24 has an equivalent diameter as an ungearned 36. Does that mean that the effort to ride a fixed distance on either one is the same. I know crank revolutions cover the exact same distance. I dont need to go faster then I can runout a upd, hence my benchmark is the ungeared 36. As I get older I’m guessing I’ll want to be closer to the ground and have easier free mounts. It seems like a guni would satisfy those conditions. I’m just wondering if there is a downside to this eventual progression.

It’s been said that the geared hub adds weight, some slack, complication, and expense. Also a bigger wheel provides more momentum and rolls over bumps easier. Once a 36 gets rolling it keeps rolling and is very stable. I would imagine that a 24 geared up would be fast but not as stable. Not to mention the learning curve of the geared hub which may be more than an ungeared 36. I don’t have a geared hub for the above reasons, so maybe I’m mistaken. I’ve made the calculation that the expense and complications aren’t worth it. Others have come to the opposite conclusion.

Lots of people ride smaller wheels with geared hubs, I think the important thing if you were trying to replicate a 36er’s speed would be tyre choice. Most 24-26" unis come with big fat treaded tyres for riding off-road, and so that’d slow you down a lot on-road no matter how good you are at Schlumpfing.

Also remember that the 36" wheel, while VERY heavy, tracks really well in a straight line as well as having far better rollover ability than a smaller wheel. While it’s a lot harder in terms of acceleration, (It takes more than a few spins to get a 36er going at full pelt, for me anyway), once it’s rolling it stays rolling.

Next thing to consider - if you’re on a smaller wheel with a Schlumpf, there’s gonna be times where you shift the gear down for whatever reason, and at that point you’re back to 24" size. While this might be great for the steepest of hills, 24" wheels are really too small for going fast (Unless you’re one of those unfathomably fast-spinning Standard racers).

This is all without ever considering the difficulty of the Schlumpf system itself. Some people report them being hard to tame, what with pedal slack, the shifting technique, and the generally odd balancing required (Probably other things too, but I wouldn’t know having never tried it).

Not trying to put you off though - like I said, lots of people do this. I reckon a skinny-tyred 26" or 29er (700c) wheel would be awesome to gear up for speed. It’s just a bit more complicated than saying the gear-inches are the same therefore the experience is the same.

If you have the money buy the geared hub. With thousands of miles on geared 24, un-geared 36, and geared 36 you will probably enjoy the geared 24 most. You will notice additional friction from the gears and additional bearings etc.

Geared hubs are terrible at power loss. But you might not really notice (several geared 24 centuries have been done).

Geared 24 can be real fun. You will take it places you will never take a 36. The geared learning curve is not difficult on a 24.

I could go on and on about why you should go with geared 24. Others will tell you all kinds of negative stuff about geared hubs. Most of the opposer have never ridden one let alone have fun on one. If you have the means and don’t you might just grow older regretting not having tried a geared 24. If you get one and don’t like it then sell it to some one else like others have.



If you’re into muni, I think a geared smaller wheel can be great. Terry “Unigeezer” Peterson rides one, as does Jamey Mossengren. (Youtube video here of Terry)

It should be noted that Terry and Jamey are both very-high-level riders, and that they both have geared 26’rs. But you can keep up with mountain bikes if you’re strong enough.

Not sure how much value the geared hub would be on a smaller wheel on the street. More maneuverable, that may be, but I think the smallest I’d go on a geared road uni would be a 29’r. Just my opinion.

Hi Reid :slight_smile:

Not a silly question, hope this isn’t too silly an answer

I had a geared unicycle for a few months last year.
The main reasons I wanted my uni geared was so that I could keep up with my buddies when we went on rides. They ride 29" and 36" unicycles.

I started off with the hub in a 29" frame but I just did not have the oomph to start off.

So then it went in a 24" frame. This was a lot easier and I was able to freemount no problem. ( I’m 5’2 and a bit" )I felt quite safe as I was near to the ground but I still couldn’t keep up with the guys who were riding 29’s.

The hub then went into a 26" frame. I kept coming off because it was runnning away with me.
I didn’t have enough strength to stick with it so I sold and it went to a good home.

If I was a fitter person I would have had a blast. I would have put it back in the 24" and muni-d my socks off :slight_smile:

Go for it Reid :slight_smile: Try a 24" and then maybe a 26".

If it’s not for you, no probby at least you gave it a whirl.
I can’t see a downside.

Thanks for the replies. Although I proposed a 24 in my question that was mainly due to the easy math. I am seriously considering a geared uni but as I’m not particularly young or tall (5’5’’ and shrinking) closer to the ground then a 36 is probably where I’m headed. A 26 or 29 is what I’m leaning towards. When and if the schlumph’s become available.

Ah, well you should have said! I have a g29 and it’s a nice size for a road guni. I suspect I’d be almost as fast (if not faster sometimes) on an ungeared 36 - I reckon it’s a lot easier to ride one of those from my limited experience of one, though harder to mount. As alucard says, try it and see, though do be prepared to give it a proper go - I really hated mine after a while as I found it so hard to ride, but getting into the idea now after a couple of years!

I really hated mine after a while as I found it so hard to ride, but getting into the idea now after a couple of years!

Again with asking about what is probably obvious- what makes the schlumph more difficult? I can guess there is a trick to shifting. Is pedaling more difficult?

I think everyone’s experience with a Schlumpf is different. Some take to it right off, some take a while. For me, it’s been a while. I’ve had my G32 built for about a year now, and while I really like it, I’m still not completely comfortable with high gear. I estimate it will take me about a thousand miles in high gear to become really “at home” on it. Right now it’s only a couple hundred, I think (I don’t keep close track of it).
To me, high gear is a very different riding experience from regular 1:1. I think it’s mostly because changes don’t happen as fast. With regular riding, you expect the uni to react to your motions pretty much immediately, but geared up, it’s not really that way any more. It takes much more effort to push the pedals down, and you have to be careful about keeping your balance while exerting the extra push. This is where a smaller wheel probably has an advantage, because the smaller size is inherently more responsive.
Others may read this and say, “That’s not how it is for me at all.” But that’s my experience, and, like I said, it’s probably somewhat different for each person.
Give it a try, you may like it! And if it turns out to be not your “cup of tea,” there is a pretty brisk market for used hubs.


The Schlumph has a 1.5:1 ratio (or 1.55:1- whatever). So every time in high gear that the cranks move, the movement is amplified by that ratio (1.5:1). So any type of corrections your brain makes or mistakes that you make are also amplified by that amount.

if you’re worried about injuries

…keep in mind that a geared hub must work flawlessly, 100% of the time. The parts are turning very, very fast, hundreds of thousands of times, and must do so perfectly for as long as the hub is used. If it disengages or locks at speed, you will be hitting the ground hard.

It’s important to check your crank bolts regularly. I’ve had several disengagements from crank loosening (and putting pressure on the shift buttons); and some locking from disc brake alignment issues.

An Unguni is more forgiving- it is less likely to slam you into the ground if it fails.

That’s pretty similar to my experience. You have to react faster to smaller losses of balance - the balance envelope is a lot smaller.

Now on the other side of the spectrum. How about geared the opposite. Granny geared for climbing, 1:1 normal… Or a three speed. How about a under seat lever to change gears. Just thinking?

still waiting for the day when we get more geared options, but sadly, we’re stuck with one for right now… at least one established method.

You can always build a penguin, or that abomination that udc made a while back with 2 chains, though both are fixed gears. Neither has caught on.

The pedal shifting I think fits the mindset of the unicyclist or juggler. “How do I make something easy hard on myself?” and for that reason, I like the way the schlumpf shifts, I also think it keeps things simple (at least on the outside), and simple is good.

I don’t think gearing down is on most unicyclists minds, the limitation is usually not one of going too fast. Unicycles are inherently slow because they can’t gear up. Gearing a 36 down would be harder to ride than just a 29er, and I can’t think of a need to gear down unless you have a penny farthing wheel size or live in san francisco… in which case, just get a smaller wheel and gear it up for when you need more speed.

For the same tyre size, a bigger diameter wheel will have a larger contact patch with the ground, and also smooth out corrugations in terrain.

That’s one of the reasons why a 36" Unguni feels smoother than a smaller wheeled geared unicycle, and why one may consider gearing down.

Few years ago, I got the convinction that 3 close gears with gearing down and gearing up is the future; project is on-going …

part of what makes the 36 easier to ride is its momentum as well, gearing that down would take away from that. It wouldn’t be nearly as stable.

You can already ride a 36 at walking speed if you need to, and it’s purpose is speed. Don’t think that gearing down a 36 to a 24 wheel is going to be nicer than riding a 24. It’s just to heavy to justify. If you really want a slow 36, just go with 165 cranks.

The only reason I could see it is for 36er Technical Muni, and while I think it’s doable, I think you’re probably better off on a 29 because of weight.

If you want a bigger contact patch with the ground, go with an Oregon.

The idea of a geared down hub got a lot of discussion recently, I think starting from this point on the Schlumpf 2014 (in reality going to be 2015 at the best or maybe 2016) thread

The fundamental issue, whatever the advantages and disadvantages might be is that it’s not going to happen because nobody will ever make one - the market for the current hub is small enough, the market for a downshifting one would be a tiny fraction of that.

Hope to make a prototype one day